The focus is on environmental protection: the foundation should save Nord Stream 2 in an emergency

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The focus is on environmental protection
Foundation is supposed to save Nord Stream 2 in an emergency

More than 90 percent of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea has already been completed, but the controversial construction has been virtually at a standstill since 2019. The state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is now establishing a foundation to complete the eleven billion euro project.

The state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has cleared the way for the establishment of a state-owned environmental foundation, which is also supposed to support the completion of the controversial Baltic Sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. At a special session in Schwerin, parliament voted with a large majority in favor of a corresponding proposal by the red-black state government. The SPD, CDU and left voted in favor, the AfD abstained. Nord Stream 2 AG welcomed the planned establishment. The foundation supports Germany’s climate goals and enables the natural gas supply to be secured, the company announced.

According to Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig, the foundation, which is oriented towards the common good, should primarily support projects in the field of environmental, nature and climate protection. But they can also become economically active for a limited period of time. “We have no plans for this foundation to build or operate the pipeline,” said the SPD politician. There is only the possibility to contribute to the completion.

“Whether this option is needed and used depends on whether the USA continues to rely on sanctions against German and European companies,” said the head of government. The foundation is considering buying components and machines that are essential for completing the gas pipeline. This is intended to circumvent threatened US sanctions against companies involved in pipeline construction as far as possible. Schwesig expressed the hope that talks between the federal government and the new US administration could ease the situation.

“Undermining climate protection commitments”

The construction of the line, which, according to the state government, cost around eleven billion euros, was interrupted shortly before completion at the end of 2019 after European companies bowed to pressure from the USA and pipe-laying ships withdrew from the Baltic Sea. The USA justifies its resistance to the project and the announced sanctions against participating companies with the fact that its European partners are too dependent on Russian gas. Pipeline proponents, on the other hand, accuse the USA of only wanting to sell their liquid gas better in Europe.

Schwesig defended the founding of the foundation against criticism from environmental associations who are calling for a complete move away from fossil fuels. As an industrialized country, Germany has a high energy requirement, which in the future should also be covered by green electricity. But gas-fired power plants are necessary as a bridging technology for a successful energy transition. “The way to get there is gas. Gas from the Baltic Sea pipeline instead of fracking gas,” said Schwesig, referring to the controversial production method in the USA.

The environmental associations Nabu and WWF Germany underpinned their criticism of the Baltic Sea pipeline and the planned foundation. “With taxpayers’ money under the guise of environmental protection, obligations of climate protection are undermined and the climate crisis is fueled further,” said a joint statement. There will be no support or cooperation with the foundation.

“We can only understand this establishment as a fraudulent label,” explained Jochen Lamp, head of the WWF Baltic Sea Office. “This” friendship service “also harms the country and the concerns of” real “environmental foundations that are committed to environmental protection and do not see themselves as stirrups of yesterday’s politics.”

More than 2,300 kilometers of pipes are already in place

SPD MP Jochen Schulte contradicted this. “The new foundation is clearly an institution for climate and environmental protection and not a disguised Nord Stream foundation,” he said. Like Schulte, speakers from the other parliamentary groups in the state parliament debate on building the pipeline and using natural gas until the energy demand can be completely covered by renewable sources such as sun and wind. The completion is a question of economic reason, also in view of the advanced construction, it said.

The state government has been clearly committed to Nord Stream 2 for years, said ex-Prime Minister Erwin Sellering, who is to take over the honorary chairmanship of the foundation. According to Schwesig, the state will endow the foundation with endowment capital of 200,000 euros. Nord Stream, which had already given money to two environmental foundations when the first line was built, has initially pledged funds of 20 million euros. According to the Russian energy company Gazprom as the main investor, 94 percent of the pipeline has been completed. This means that more than 2,300 kilometers of double-strand pipes lie on the sea floor.

A few weeks ago a Russian pipe-laying vessel resumed work and completed a 2.6-kilometer section of the pipeline in the German exclusive economic zone. Work on closing the gap in front of the Danish island of Bornholm is to begin in mid-January, as the Danish energy administration said on Thursday.

Russian natural gas has been flowing to Germany through Nord Stream 1 since 2012. According to the operator, the double line has a transport capacity of around 55 billion cubic meters per year. The same amount should also flow through Nord Stream 2.

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